The Third Leader: Hope over experience

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The Independent Online

Ours is often condemned as an age of cynicism. I myself stand amazed at the amount of unquenchable optimism resolutely on display despite all contrary indications everywhere. This either says great things about the human spirit or not so great things about the human intellect. Whatever, many of us still vote, do the Lottery, and buy things in flatpacks. Some even think that Iraq will turn out all right, Charlton will stay up, and London will be ready for the Olympics.

Not that there haven't been recent triumphs for indomitablity and hope. One thinks, for example, of the award for best daytime television show to Noel Edmonds. And the continuing search for the Elixir of Life, currently represented by red wine, which is now, it seems, allowing fat mice to eat as unhealthily as they like, live longer, and perform with as much agility on their exercise equipment as thinner mice.

The question now is whether it will work for humans, given that there may be crucial differences between mice and men. Right. I note, too, that the mice are being dosed with the equivalent for a human of 100 bottles of wine a day. Forget the exercise equipment (please) - I would like to see them first thing in the morning.

Nevertheless, in deference to Noel, I will suspend my disbelief and conclude with a favourite piece of anecdotal research: "The Japanese drink little red wine and have less heart disease than Britons or Americans. The French and Italians drink lots of red wine and have less heart disease than Britons or Americans. Conclusion: speaking English kills you."